Jennie Stenerhag

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Bronze at the European XCM Championship!


For 2019 I set the European Championship as my highest goal for the year, it would be in Norway which was close to home and probably a terrain that was something like what I am used to, it was also not at high altitude and in terms of time of the year it was good too. I have been working towards this goal for a long time and I have to say that I was very nervous during the week leading up to the race. There is not much training the last week and I do not want to do much else that takes energy, at the same time it gets a bit boring to just rest and be lazy.

When we came to Kvamsfjellet on Monday, Craig began to feel sick and it turned in to a proper cold, we did what we could for me not to get it from him by sleeping in different rooms etc. but it is difficult when you still live in the same cottage and need to be around each other. I was, of course, very scared of getting sick before the race and what if I could not even start after all this preparation… I had a headache and felt something in my sinuses but at the same time I was not sick, so maybe it was just imagination and nervousness.

I had been selected for the Swedish national team and would race in the national kit. Our mechanic David came up with one more rider, Michael Olsson, on Tuesday and stayed with us in the cottage and on Thursday we moved over to Hotell Rondablikk and the national coach Fredrik Edin joined together with Emmy Thelberg (the third rider) and the national team was complete. We were a good group and we also had good help from Craig and Jennie (Michael's girlfriend), it was a course where it was impossible to do feeding for both ladies and men with only 2 people.

There were many good names on the start list and a medal would be tough and for a European champs jersey it would require a day where everything worked, went as planned and you were on the best form! I had high expectations on myself, especially since this was the goal of the year. We also had a plan A and a plan B for after the race. If I got a medal we would stay in Kvam since there was a prize ceremony in the evening but I did not get a medal we would drive the 7 hours home and I would do the race Mörksuggejakten the following day. So we checked out from the hotel and packed the car before the race which started at 12.15.

It was cold as usual and I was a bit indecisive about how much clothes to wear. I decided on arm warmers and knee warmers, I know that my legs do not work when they get cold and it would be very cold up on the mountain. On the first line where the best rider stood, there were many with knee warmers so I was not alone.

We were 40 girls who rolled away in the neutral start and the speed picked up immediately when the motorbike left us. After just a few kilometers we went into a forest section and I felt that I could easily get passed some girls to be amongst the first when we came out on the next gravel road. We had a longish steep hill after about 5 km which took us to the beginning of the mountain trail, I went up there first but got passed by Blaza and Mara close to the top, and entered the single track in 3rd.  It was a steep walking section where I could pass Mara and was on Blazas wheel as we could start riding again. I was really at the max and soon she got a gap and soon afterwards I was passed by both Mara and Siri from Finland. I fought as hard as I could but the 3 in front just rode away slowly but surely and I started to get bad thoughts about the race already being over, after all it was just a medal that counted for me for this day. For the same reason I never looked back, so I never knew if anyone was close behind, it was just the positions ahead which was important. I saw the 3 at a distance but did not manage to get closer at all, for about 1 hour I was alone in 4th place but eventually on the flat section on the top of the mountain I thought I could see that I was closing in a little bit and started to think about how far it was still to go and that it might still be a chance, I got some new energy! Just as we came to the first water point after about 1h20min, I caught up with them!

We turned and rode the next section of the mountain, which was mostly downhill, I was in 4th but felt that I had control and that I could now stay with them, but then Mara did something on a technical section and we lost the first 2, I managed to pass her and chased down Blaza and Siri, but then it was my turn to mess it up at the next technical section and we ended up chasing a bit again. We managed to get back and from there we were all 4 together all the way. The course changed character about halfway from rocky mountain terrain to more forest and gravel roads. I felt it burning in my legs every time it went uphill or where the speed increased so I didn't feel I had my best day. On the 9 km long tar section I had to dig deep to stay with them when Mara attacked time after time to try to get rid of the rest of us, she did not succeed but Siri dropped once and came back, so I knew that she seemed a bit tired. With 2.5 km left we went into the last climb, Blaza who had not been working a lot took the lead and went hard, I knew that was her plan so I sat on her wheel and managed to follow. But when Mara did a hard attack I could not respond and I also lost Blaza who tried to respond but also did not manage. I looked back and saw that Siri had dropped and all I had the power for was to defend a 3rd place and at least a medal. I could see that Blaza probably thought the same about her silver medal so even though we were 4 together so close to the finish, we finished very spread out.

I'm very happy with my medal, the goal was always to take a medal at the European champs and I managed that! At the same time, there is of course a small disappointment about missing the jersey when it was so close (even though 35 seconds is not that close in cycling) and within reach.

Now as I am writing this the morning after, I have woken up with a cold, sore throat, headache, stuffy nose and just sneezing. So there was probably an explanation why I wasn't at my absolute peak at the same time as I'm incredibly grateful that the body managed to hold back the cold until the race was done! It probably felt that it could now relax and gave way to the virus! This means a few days rest and taking it easy (even though that’s all I did last week as well) and it was probably lucky that we had to go with plan A, to stay here in Kvam instead of going to Mörksuggejakten where it anyway might had been a DNS.

Later today our little tour continues, we are leaving for Hede in the Swedish mountains where we will be staying during the week until Fjällturen next Saturday, hopefully both me and Craig are completely healthy until then!

A big thank you to everyone who helped during the European Championships and thank you to all my sponsors who make it possible for me to focus so much on my cycling, this would not be possible without you!!

Only picture of the race is the finish ;)

Thank you Fredrik, Craig and David!!

My biggest supporter!

I absolutely loved my bike today, it was awesome on this terrein!

Unfortunately the winner was not at the evening presentation...


Some pictures from the day before:

Bikes are getting prepped the day before :-)

Last ride the day before


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